After his second surgery to clean out his infected elbow, Warriors forward David Lee has finally "turned the corner" and is headed to full recovery.
That is according to Warriors general manager Larry Riley and the doctor who performed the second surgery. Lee is resting at Stanford Hospital after a follow-up surgery to cleanse the infected area. He is likely to be out at least another 10 days.
"I'm totally comfortable with the situation," Riley said. "He's getting excellent care and this thing will be resolved."
Lee will remain at Stanford Hospital for the next couple days as they are feeding him antibiotics intravenously. He will still be on an antibiotic regimen when he is released and will be required to rest. The wound has to be closed and the infection will have to be completely eradicated before Lee can return to action. Even when he checks out, Lee will be continuously monitored and will have to be evaluated again at Stanford before he is cleared.
According to sources, the initial expectation after Lee sustained the injury on Nov. 12 was that Lee would be out about two weeks. That timetable could still be accurate though it is possible Lee could be out a bit longer.
Dr. Bill Maloney, head of orthopedic surgery at Stanford Hospital, said the infection was in Lee's skin and in the tissue directly below the skin. He performed the second surgical cleansing and said it did not spread to the muscle or bone.
He said Lee's elbow "is in good shape." The swelling is going down and the skin is returning to its normal color. He said the injury is not career threatening but the proper treatment is imperative.
While Lee's case is average, Maloney said these types of injuries are "notorious." He said he's seen cases where the wound needed to be surgically cleansed four or five times.
"This is the equivalent of a human bite wound," Maloney said. "The mouth, unfortunately, is a very dirty place. We see this in your average Saturday night bar brawls when someone punches someone in the mouth and they have a puncture wound from someone's teeth. It's usually in the hand."
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki had a similar injury. On Dec. 18, 2009, after a collision in the paint, Nowtizki had had a tooth from then-Houston forward Carl Landry lodged into his right elbow. But Nowitzki, who had his elbow treated immediately and did not return to action, avoided infection and missed only one game.
Lee wasn't so lucky. He has already missed three games and is out for Friday's game at New York. It would be just shy of a miracle if he plays the following back-to-back set, Sunday at the Los Angeles Lakers and Monday vs. Denver.
He sustained the injury late in the third quarter in a game at New York, his first match-up against his former team. An accidental elbow to the mouth of Knicks forward Wilson Chandler led to a laceration on the inner elbow of Lee's left arm.
Lee came out of the game, his arm was wrapped three times over with tape, and he checked back in 10 seconds later. He played the rest of the game but the bleeding persisted, enough to be seen through the tape. In the fourth quarter, he could be seen grimacing and favoring his left elbow.
The next morning, Lee checked into the emergency room of Rush Memorial Hospital in Chicago complaining of excruciating pain. He was given pain medicine and antibiotics. He attended the game against the Bulls that night, his unwrapped wound swollen to the size of a softball and discolored. He wound up going back to the hospital after the game and staying overnight.
Friday morning, Lee and Riley flew back to the Bay Area with new owner Joe Lacob. Dr. Frank Chen performed surgery to clean out the wound Friday night at the Fremont Surgery Center.
After little progress was evident, Lee was admitted to Stanford Hospital on Sunday night for treatment and monitoring.
"It would've happened no matter what they did," said Maloney, rebutting the notion that the infection was caused by the wound being wrapped instead of treated immediately.
"It was a dirty wound. No matter what they'd done in New York, it would have had to be opened up and cleaned out."